Commentary: How Meg Whitman botched her election chance

For a time, California Republicans had reason for hope.

Meg Whitman, their shiny new candidate at the top of the ticket, was opening a seemingly bottomless checkbook. As she shelled out money, other Republican candidates would rise, or so they hoped.

But Whitman asked a lot of us. She had no government experience but promised she could fix the broken state, though she had failed for most of her adult life to exercise that most basic civic duty – voting.

Running for office at a time when many Californians have been fired by wealthy CEOs, Whitman, the wealthy chief executive officer, tried to convince us that she had our best interests at heart, even as she pledged to fire 40,000 civil servants.

In most of the nation, Republicans awaited Election Day as if it were Christmas in November. Not here. California Republicans braced for a rout, though some thought they might pick up congressional seats, perhaps take the attorney general's office now held by Democrat Jerry Brown, and, if voting veered right, the U.S. Senate seat held since 1992 by Democrat Barbara Boxer.

If all that happened, Republicans would have a big night. But it takes luck to draw an inside straight, and Republicans, with Whitman at the top of the ticket, turned cold.

"The problem was the candidate," said Michael Schroeder, former California Republican Party chairman.

Whitman came off as imperious and failed to specify how she would solve the state's many ills. Once she won the primary, she didn't make much of an effort to win over conservatives like Schroeder, who derided Whitman as "Schwarzenegger in a skirt."

To read the complete column, visit www.sacbee.com.